ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jarrett Culver spotted his family sitting in the front row moments after the buzzer had sounded.
The Lubbock product had minutes before helped send Texas Tech, his hometown school, to the Final Four for the first time and was maneuvering toward the stands after peeling himself from a dogpile on the floor of the Honda Center.
Culver’s father, Hiawatha, was already being bombarded by media who were interviewing him about the feat.
Culver could only spend a few minutes with his father, mother and brother Trey, before he had to retreat and join the traditional net-cutting ceremony, but the brief exchange was everything to the 20-year old.
“My family means everything to me,” Culver said. “They are my joy. They are everything to me. Having that moment with them is unbelievable.
“It doesn’t get any better than that. You put in all the work, the team puts in all the work. Having this success and going so far. It is an honor.”
Culver finished with a team-high 19 points in Texas Tech’s 75-69 win over No. 1 seed Gonzaga.
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As confetti rained down, Hiawatha Culver said the achievement shows that anything is possible, as long as you dream big.
“Last year was a building block,” the elder Culver said. “Coach (Chris) Beard instilled in them, ‘We aren’t satisfied with the Elite Eight, we are trying to reach the next stage, the Final Four.’ He preached that to them continuously.”
There were times Saturday where it felt like Texas Tech might be destined for disappointment in the Elite Eight once again, after falling to eventual national champions Villanova at the same point last year.
After a grind-it-out win over Michigan, another defense-first team in the Sweet 16 on Thursday, Saturday’s matchup began much more suited to the high-speed offense of Gonzaga.
But when the chips were on the table, the Red Raiders did what they had to many an opponent this season, making life miserable with in-your-face, constricting defense that forced the highest-scoring team in the nation into a 3 for 15 slump.
The 12-minutes the Bulldogs struggled was enough to allow Texas Tech to swing the game by nine points, from a four-point deficit into a five-point lead (63-58).
That was all Beard and the Red Raiders needed to the next step and will play in their first Final Four next Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.The Red Raiders will play the winner of the East Regional final, a showdown between college basketball blue bloods Duke and Michigan State.
“I don’t mind the underdog, chip-on-the-shoulder story, but it disrespects these players a little bit when people don’t understand, we have really good college players,” Beard said. “We have one of the best teams in the country this year.”